The Collected Wisdom of Science Olympiad Coaches

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From: Denise Lyon

Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2001 6:56 PM

Subject: Re: [SOCoaches] Organizational Questions
> 1. What type of kid is on the team? Are they AP/honors kids or just any kid that seems interested?
Our school is a small school (one class per grade) of average to above average students. Most of the kids participating in SO are the brighter students because that is who is interested. Anybody who wants to participate is welcomed. This is our second year. If we have more than 15 kids interested next year, we intend to form a "training team" for younger/newer students, no matter what size the second team ends up being and let them just do whatever events they want to do to prepare them for the full team the next year.
> 2. How do you balance the kids very full lives (band, sports, other clubs, etc) with working on

> the events? Do you meet as a class?

Our school has 2 "elective class" periods on Fridays only. SO was offered in the fall and anyone who wanted to be on the team had to choose this as one of their electives. Unfortunately, this did not work as well as we hoped, plus the kids had trouble getting motivated that early in the year. Also, it was difficult or impossible for the parent coaches to attend these because of work. Ironically, the class ended in December.
> 3. How many coaches/adults do you have working with the kids?
The middle school director (who is also the primary 6th grade teacher) is the head coach. There are 4 parents helping. I coach 5 events (with some spot help from my husband), another mom is coaching about 3 events, a dad is coaching about 3 events, another dad 1 event, and another mom (who is also the school principal) is coaching 1 event. The teacher coaches the rest. The other parents coach events in which their kids participate; I coach 3 events in which I have no children participating.
> 4. How many hours/week do you and the kids put in?
At the moment, the entire team (except the usual on and off conflicts) practices Wednesdays after school for 2 hours (actually more like 1 1/2 hours, by the time we set up and clean up) and most Saturdays for 3 hours. In addition, many of the kids, the more motivated ones, work some on their own. I have met a number of "extra" times with my building teams. We had a few of these extra meetings in the fall (I am sorry to say that they didn't seem to get us very far) and have had more as our regional gets closer. I personally usually put in some time outside of practice most weeks obtaining information or materials or whatever needs doing to prepare. I spent a good deal of time last summer collecting information and some materials.
> 5. How do you pay for all the equipment?
Parents. (sigh!) The school had a SMALL budget this year for SO - enough to add to some of the study and resource materials that we got last year. And the teacher used some funds that she had discretion with to purchase a few things. I told her we sadly needed a good scale for bridges and planes this year and she used some money from her science supplies budget to get it and let me help her find one that would be sure to do everything we needed for SO. Actually, the teacher managed to get a lot more stuff than I had expected given the "official" budget. I suspect she stretched the middle school science budget to cover SO wherever possible. :-) We had hoped to have a real budget this year, but that didn't happen. Last year, I bought tools and equipment for bridges (and a lot of wood since I had no idea what size to order at the time and didn't have time to wait to place the order - we used up certain sizes this year between bridges and Wright Stuff) and built a test stand for the bridge and a launcher for the bottle rockets. This year, I bought a new rocket launcher (not the expensive one!) and have spent a lot of my own money (I don't even want to know how much!) on Wright Stuff in acquiring the right tools and "gadgets" and special supplies and my son is not even in that event! I know other parents have helped a lot, too. Of course, my husband enjoys building hobbies and my son thinks he'd like to try building one now, so ... I keep all the tools, gadgets, small materials and equipment I have personally purchased in a large, cheap plastic tackle box with removable divided trays. (This works great - wish I'd have thought of it last year when we were digging around in cardboard boxes for the right tool or piece of sandpaper or glue.) It is normally at the school where the kids can use whatever they need, but after SO, I'll bring it home until next year. Next year, I'll feel totally justified in asking the school to buy a rubber stripper! LOL I wish I had the money to buy everything that is on my wish list, but my personal budget is limited. I am just grateful that I could manage to get the things we needed most to do things right. The teacher is going to ask the parents' association for some support next year.


From: T. Haynes

Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2001 6:03 PM

Subject: Re: FW: [SOCoaches] Organizational Questions
I would like to put my two-cents worth in for Jordana.

#1- We normally have a "If you are interested meeting..." after school in October . I have the students sign up for the events that they are interested in. I have a little questionaire I give them that shows the event, basic rules, and skill level.

1a. We have all kinds of thinkers and tinkers. We have AP students, honor's students, and the students who are average but tend to be the builders.
2. Our school has a block schedule which has a "study hall" every other day. They are allowed to meet with their science coach then or we ask them what night works for them. Wednesday's are bad, because of church groups. We have a weekly meeting after school for 15-20 minutes and as it gets closer to competition, they also meet on the appropriate day/night for their event. We also have mandatory meetings where attendance is REQUIRED. We work with their other commitments, but they realize that they must

study on their own.

3. When I was at the Division B level, we were fortunate to have 1 parent or teacher coach for every two events. It made all the difference in the world and allowed us to take state and go to Nationals in Chicago.
4. As a working parent/school volunteer/science coach, I put in 15-20 hours per week and the students put in 2-3 hours. These hours go up dramatically when it get closer to competition.
5. As far as equipment, we beg, borrow, or ask students to rummage in their parents garage to supplement the small budget the school allows for S/O.
I find that if you have the teachers willing to help with events, and you limit the time they have to put in, say 30 minutes 1 or 2 nights a week, they are happy to do that because they have tons of work to do anyway.
Some added information for incentive purposes, we recently got approval from our administration to make Science Olympiad a "letter" event. In other words, if the students attend the meetings, show up for practices, and maintain a certain grade point average, and meet the school criteria, they are eligible for an Academic Letter. It encourages participation.
From: leslie gehlsen

Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2000 5:17 AM

Subject: Re: Motivation and Other Things
food always has and will remain to be the secret of our success!!!

Lakeville, MN

From: Terri Barnes

Sent: Sunday, February 13, 2000 4:12 PM

Subject: Motivation
I agree! Food keeps 'em coming! Our teams favorites: popcorn, Pop tarts, small boxes of cereal, and ANY kind of candy!
We often have MANY students on the team, and we have some guilt and trouble cutting them before state. We solved that by starting every member with an even number of points (i.e. 30). Points are deducted for missing practices, tournaments, or other required team events. Points can be earned by placing in the top five in a tournament event as well as by participating in non-required SO events, like fund-raising. The top 15 pointers go to state. Since I'm a first grade teacher, I must meet before and after school with my team. Getting this team of 85% boys settled down is as tough as keeping my 6 yr olds in order. (The only difference is the shoe size.) The points can always be used as a threat in those conditions, but I've only had to dock one child for inappropriate language. Then they got the picture! :)


Peoria, Arizona
From: Lyn Murphy

Sent: Monday, February 14, 2000 3:34 PM

Subject: Re: Letters/ Recognition
Reading letters from other coaches about recognition for academic achievement really makes me proud of my school. About ten years ago, my junior high school, along with our partner in education, instituted an student incentive program. Students can earn points in all school activities, both academic and athletics, but more points are awarded for academic achievement. To be eligible, a student must have a 3.5 GPA. They an receive points just for participating in SO, and more for winning medals. The same goes for Science Fair, Social Studies Fair, MathCounts, Quiz Bowl, and Beta Club competitions. When they achieve the required number of points, they receive a "TOPS" (Tioga's Outstanding Performing Students) jacket. Those red jackets are much coveted by the students, and now about 20% of the student body earns a jacket by the end of the eighth grade. If they earn a jacket in the 7th grade, and continue to earn points they can receive a patch and possibly a pin in the 8th grade. It's especially an incentive for SO participation, because with multiple events, there are so many opportunities for earning points. The program is highly successful, but we couldn't do it without our partner in education, Bellsouth.

Lyn Murphy

Harriet Knops wrote:
> I love the ideas, Martin and Jane, and will definitely look into medals or something similar

> at our middle school, since we don't give letters.Sometimes the kids seems almost

> embarrassed to be achieving academically, and that is sad. They work so hard, but the

> only real support they get is from parents and team members. If it were an overall school

> recognition in a general category like (Name of School) Academic Achievement Medal, it

> would be something to be proud of.

> Harriet
From: Crystal Holdeman

Sent: Monday, February 14, 2000 6:32 AM

Subject: Re: science olympiad letters
Letters and having team co-captains to motivate them, that's what I did this year. I don't hunt my students down to see if they are working, I tell them they are doing this for them, not me. The responsibility falls squarely on their shoulders and I'm here only as a guide to bounce ideas off of.
We have been awarding academic letters to the kids for years! (I know because I was a student in this school myself over 10 years ago and earned a few. In fact, that's all I had on my letter jacket, and I am not a nerd!)
The science olympiad team is an off-shoot of our Science Club. There is a rubric we follow for students to earn 10 points or more throughout the year. Then they get a white W with the science club emblem in the center of it. (Athletic letters are red block, honor roll is a red script, and other academic's are white block.)
Our school also puts on the regional science and engineering fair for northeast Kansas, where two grand prizes are awarded and those students may advance on to the International Science and Engineering Fair. So we have more than just Science Olympiad they may earn points for.
Overall, most of my club (30 members strong this year) can and should earn a letter. Then the science olympiad team members get to sew their medals onto the letter also, just like all the track stars.
Every so often, there will be some ridicule, but my students seem to be confident enough in their own abilities to overcome it.
As far as committment, well, you just have to get to know the kids and how to motivate them. I lucked out this year with a very strong female roll model on the team. Between she and the Science Club president they kept the members organized while I was out for 2 months on maternity leave. I think it was the constant reminders and locker notes to the students from their peers, the co-captains, that kept them going. (This is the first year I assigned co-captains to help organize. I like it. I intend to make it a tradition.) We actually took 3rd place at regionals this year!! In the 10 years the school has been in the olympiad this is the 3rd time they've brought home a trophy. We also receive gold medals in 4 events and a silver in 1 and a bronze in another. In half the events we placed 5 or higher. More medals and better placements than we have received in the past 3 years. I'm proud of my kids and I let them know!! On the way home from regionals (a 2 hour drive) I informed the students that I was going to have the principal put the trophy in the case with all the sports trophies. When it wasn't there the NEXT morning the students came to see why. (I hadn't gotten it to the principal yet, they didn't give me time!) But, they were anxious and very proud to have THEIR trophy with the track and basketball trophies.
This is simply what I found works for me. Hope it has given a few ideas to others.
(sorry this was so long,)

Crystal Holdeman

Wamego High School (4A)

Wamego, KS wrote:

> We created a special "Academic Competition Letter" I investigated giving a

> school letter like in Athletics but was told in no uncertain terms that that

> would not be acceptable by the athletic director. So I designed my own. We

> drafted up the rules for it, and basically it says that anyone representing

> our school and competing outside school would be eligible. This would

> include spelling bee participants, gifted "oddesy of the mind", Math Counts

> competition, and science olympiad. The letter is in script and matches the

> white academic honors letters that the kids earn for grades. (the athletic

> letters are block and in red.) The kids received them at academic awards

> night and were very appreciative. This doesn't help us with committment

> necessarily, but it was recognition.


> Jane Bush

> Olathe, KS

> In a message dated 2/11/2000 7:10:11 PM, writes:


>> we tried letters, but were laughed at. We were told a certian number of

>> hours of work are required for this, simply so that letters arent considered

>> watered down. I wish we were given the recognition. Oh well. Bob

From: Jeremy Way

Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 7:05 AM

Subject: RE: [ Varsity letters for S.O.]
I guess I was lucky. Way back in the late 1980's when I competed (yes, I actually did), we got varsity letters for academic competition (Olympiad, Quiz Bowl, Future Problem Solving, etc.). It came with a pin for academics (Aladin lamp type thing). No difference in the letter than a regular athlete. Thought that was pretty classy of our district. They still do that, I believe. Some districts in Michigan have a different letter than the athletic one to symbolize academic competition. So, some people get two letters!
Our school currently doesn't give varsity letters for it, but we have a class for it, so I guess we couldn't anyway.
Jeremy Way

Zoe Christian Academy

From: Sarah

Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2000 4:50 PM

Subject: Re: Motivation
I have to say that motivation always seems to be a problem. I actually participated in the Science Olympiad for two years (7th and 8th grade) and am now in 9th grade. I am a co-coach for the middle school SO because my high school doesn't participate. While working on Mission Possible last year I knew that motivation was a problem, but my group and I finally started to get going as the day arrived. I would have to agree that this year it seems a bigger problem ( my sister is a perfect example of it) but all you can really do as a coach is coach them into motivating themselves. No matter how many pep talks you give them and junk food you feed them, if they aren't into working hard they won't get motivated enough to do a winning project, especially if it is extracurricular. It is exactly like sports in this way. If an athlete's mind is not into the game the result will be a player who is benched for the season.
I think my coach from the middle school handled this very well. She made us feel that coming after school and participating in SO was supposed to be fun. She always brought in food (out of her own pocket) but by the last week we weren't even concentrating on the food. She never nagged us about our projects, but she was more like a voice in the back of our heads keeping our minds on the right track and giving us advice on how to do this or what would make that work better. She was always happy if we came, in fact she is still excited whenever I show up. There always seems to be a shortage of participants in our school so kicking people off the team was never an option. And she controlled all of us herself and has been doing so for the longest time. This year she does have a little help from me and her new student teacher, but even if we were not there she would still survive.
If this seems like just a salute to my favorite teacher you are right in part. I also wanted my coach, Mrs. Laposta-Fraisier, to serve as an example of how just sitting back and letting the kids work out problems on their own really is the best solution.

10/24/2012 10:24:00 AM

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